Agriculture matters always! In every country and every corner of the world!
There are always news and developments that remind us how critical the agriculture and rural economy is for every country and every society. Simply because agriculture is the basic economic foundation on which the rest of the economic and social structure rests.
So too the news and developments in the agriculture and the food sector. So, as a media that is committed to this high priority a high powered economic arm of the economies and countries, be they the big powers or the smaller ones, we have to focus our minds and attention on this critical and vital sector.
What is the latest news?
Almost every day there are news and events that impinge on the agri sector.
The latest news is China, the world’s second biggest economy is now going overseas to buy and lease out arable lands on a vast scale to boost its agriculture and food production strategy.
Ukraine, once the bread basket of the former Soviet Union, is said to become the next big Chinese province for its food needs.
The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post, a very liberal and independent newspaper still published from Hong Kong without any interference or censorship had broken this story that is otherwise kept a secret venture.
This news was broken as recently as September 21.Chinese company, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp, the company’s name and it is this company that is signing a contract or deal with the Ukraine counterpart to lease three million hectares of high quality farm land for crop and pig farming.
The lease deed is for 50 years. This is said to be China’s largest overseasing farming project. Why not?
We like to ask the readers, here in India. Even inside India now, there are projects that Indians had gone out to Tanzania to lease out lands on a vast scale, a Bangalore based company, Karuturi had leased out lands to raise vast scale of flower cultivation and even said to be for sugarcane farming or cotton farming?
Anyway, there is other Indian overseas venture by other Indian companies.
In fact, we have to have an open mind and welcome some such developments to break through the many barriers to agricultural developments and trades.
This is the age of liberalisation in all spheres of life and economy, there are any number of industrial ventures overseas by private Indian companies.
So, why not for farming?
This is the instant reaction we get from such ventures. Now, there is also news that other countries from the former Soviet Russian states like Kazakhastan, Tajikistan and why China has also made an “inroad into Russia” as well, says the report.
China had already leased 25,200 hectares in the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia’s Far East and smaller farming plots in many other parts of the country. However, China’s further “land grab” in Russia has been stalled by a bad reputation the Chinese farmers had earned and left behind by spoiling the land’s original purity by over-use of pesticides and fertilisers uses.
Earlier this year a court in the Far East fined a Chinese company more than 5 million dollars and cancelled its lease of 107 hectares for ruining the soil. But in many Russian provinces the authorities close their eyes for the Chinese malpractices.
The hard reality today in many parts of the world is that agriculture is becoming unviable for various reasons. One reason universally cited is the lack of enough rural labour. So, one has to lease and rent out the lands.
There is also this universal phenomenon that even in many of the developed countries in Europe and also in the USA and Canada where there is a huge concentration of agricultural labour, most often unskilled and not well-educated migrant labour that is allowed, why even acknowledged and often illegally allowed this migrant labour to exist and do the silent work of farm work!
One of the critical elements of the illegal migrant labour inside the USA, from California to New York, you have this concentration of agri labour.
So, there is no reason why we should decry the Chinese entry into this high-risk and also high-profitable lease of large scale overseas farm lands and also help to cultivate vast uncultivated land.
Chine by the way consumers one-fifth of the world food supplies. There are some countries like Japan that is fanatically committed to self-sufficiency and protection of rice cultivation.
There are also countries like India and other rice producing countries that are lately becoming dominant traders, exporters of rice to developed countries. So, we need a pragmatic outlook towards new agricultural opportunities and challenges and must rise to meet these challenges and opportunities. Free trade may be a distant possibility.
But pragmatic liberal approach to agricultural production and trade in agri commodities, especially to food production is critical in these days of great awareness all over the world for food security and nutrition security. So, there is lot of room for new ideas and new innovations in food and nutrition security.
Two of the great challenges today are also food security and adequate nutrition to every child in the world. So, we welcome and salute the China’s new policy of ushering in a new type of Green Revolution!